Call for entries: the 2022 Adler Book Collecting Prize! Deadline: March 18, 2022

Poster for the 2022 Adler Book Collecting Prize

Are you a collector?
Submit an essay for a chance to win the 2022 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize!

Deadline: Friday, March 18, 2022

Join us Friday, Feb. 18, from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for a remote Q&A session on Zoom

Do you collect books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, recordings, coins, clothing, or other materials? Libraries and museums have their collections, but we want to hear about yours! Maybe everywhere you travel, you get a new charm for your charm bracelet; or you've spent years building a corpus of 1970s Swedish clog shoes; or you have an ever growing library of copies of Winnie the Pooh from across space and time?

Sound familiar? Consider submitting an essay about your collection for a chance to win the Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize!

Endowed from the estate of Elmer Adler (1884-1962), who for many years encouraged the collecting of books by Princeton undergraduates, this prize is awarded annually to undergraduate students who, in the opinion of a committee of judges, have shown the most thought and ingenuity in assembling a thematically coherent collection of books, manuscripts, or other material normally collected by libraries. This includes a vast array of formats and potential subject areas. For examples, see the various collections that are housed in Special Collections at Princeton University Library. Past winning essays include those that described collections of books, comic books, miniature books, poetry, photographs, maps, sheet music, vinyl records, Blu-ray movies, and coins, to name some examples.

To be considered, you will craft and submit a 9-10 page essay describing: 1) the scope of your collection (i.e., what are you collecting?); 2) how you began to develop your collection; 3) why the collection is important to you; and, 4) why the collection is important in general. Winning entries will answer these questions, in a compelling, clear manner that demonstrates thoughtfulness, care, and passion. 

Please note that the rarity or monetary value of a collection is not as important as the creativity and persistence shown in collecting and the fidelity of the collection to the goals described in a personal essay.

The personal essay should reflect an actively-curated collection rather than merely describe the contents of the student's library. It should articulate the thematic or artifactual nature of the collection and discuss with some specificity the unifying characteristics that have prompted the student to think of certain items as a collection. It should also convey a strong sense of the student's motivations for collecting and what his or her particular collection means to the student personally. The history of the collection, including collecting goals, acquisition methods, and milestones, is of particular interest, as are a critical look at how collecting goals may have evolved over time and an outlook on the future development of the collection. Essays are judged in equal measure on the strength of the collection and the quality of the writing.

Winners will receive their prizes at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which they are expected to attend. Winners' essays have the honor of representing Princeton University in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, organized by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA). Please note that per the ABAA's contest rules, the winning essay will be entered exactly as submitted to the Adler Prize contest, without possibility of revision. In addition, the first-prize winner will have the opportunity to have his or her essay featured in a Library-affiliated publication.

Prize amounts:
First prize: $2000
Second prize: $1500
Third prize: $1000

The deadline for submission is noon on Friday, March 18, 2022. Essays should be submitted via e-mail, in a Microsoft Word attachment, to Emma Sarconi at

Essay Format

Length: 9-10 pages long, 12 pt., double-spaced, with a 1-inch margin
Cover sheet: A separate sheet, listing the contestant's name, class year, email address, and phone number
Bibliography: In addition to the essay, a selected bibliography of no more than 3 pages, detailing the items in the collection.

Download the submission template at

Please note that essays submitted after the deadline, or in file formats other than Microsoft Word, or without a cover sheet or bibliography, will not be forwarded to the judges. For inquiries, please contact Emma Sarconi.

View previous winners and essays here